Shot for wanting an education, Malala now inspires a university curriculum

Malala Yousafzai was targeted because she advocates for the right of girls to have an education. (© AP Images)

“Who is Malala?” the gunman demanded of bus passengers in Pakistan’s Swat Valley before firing his weapon, injuring his target and two of her classmates.

Since that day in October 2012, Malala Yousafzai has become famous — and earned the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize — for promoting the right of girls everywhere to receive an education. Now universities and secondary schools draw on her memoir “I Am Malala” to mobilize men and women to advocate for everyone’s right to have an education and a career.

Part of that curriculum includes understanding the gender-based violence she encountered. Yousafzai was targeted because her advocacy for girls’ education threatened elements in her society that want to maintain a system of women’s subordination to men.

Malala Yousafzai’s memoir has been widely read around the world. (© AP Images)

Malala was lucky to have a father who shared her passion for learning and has been her strongest supporter. Ziauddin Yousafzai spoke at the November 14 curriculum launch in Washington.

When asked what he would do in the next 12 months to reduce girls’ barriers to education if he had a “magic wand,” Mr. Yousafzai replied: “There is no magic wand, to be honest….It’s a long walk, and we have to do something every day.”

The World Health Organization estimates that approximately one in three women will experience physical or sexual violence at some point in her life. The 16 Days Campaign between November 25 and December 10 is a time for men and women to take action to affirm the right of women and girls to be educated without the threat of harm.